- Golfer Benefits
MARLBOROUGH, Massachusetts – The fall season doesn’t officially start until Thursday, but all 120 competitors in the 39th Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship got an early taste during the opening round Monday. Heavy fog delayed the beginning a play by one hour, but on an otherwise overcast and brisk day at Marlborough Country Club (par-71, 6,358-yards) five players finished under-par, including defending champion Matt Parziale (Thorny Lea Golf Club).
Seven years after winning the Mid-Amateur at Marlborough, Parziale is leading at 4-under-par 67, closing out his round with a long birdie putt on the 18th to take a 3-stroke lead into the second round of the 54-hole championship.
“I haven’t been back since the last time I won here, but obviously I’ve had some success and I’m off to a good start this time,” Parziale said.
Kyle Tibbetts (Framingham Country Club) led the afternoon wave by shooting 2-under 69, which concluded with a 3-foot birdie putt on the par-3 18th. Two unrelated Parkers — Brandon Parker (Worcester Country Club) and Tommy Parker (George Wright Golf Club) — both shot 1-under and have a share of third place with Nathan Davis (Segregansett Country Club).
The second rounds begins at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday. After 36-holes of stroke play, the field will be cut to the low 30 and ties advancing to Wednesday’s final round.
Matt Parziale couldn’t help but show a slight grin when he got his final putt of the day to drop on the difficult, uphill par-3 18th. Though he clubbed up, he was still short of the hole, but he hit a well-paced putt right at the hole, and it dropped to put the defending champion in a solid position.
“That was a tough shot today,” Parziale said of the 18th. “It’s uphill and into the wind. We didn’t have the nicest weather, so it was a tough number to get. I’m surprised it didn’t get to the pin. I actually hit it pretty well, but was lucky enough to putt one in.”
Parziale was 1-over after carding a couple bogeys on the front, but his birdie putt on 18 capped an outstanding back nine, where he rolled in four consecutive birdies on holes 10-13. Parziale drove the green on the 316-yard downhill par-4 and two-putted from there. He then made birdie putts inside 10 feet over the next three holes. On the par-5 13th, he hit the green in two and was able to two-putt for birdie.
“I made a few pars after that and then was lucky enough to have that long one on 18 go in,” Parziale said.
— Mass Golf (@PlayMassGolf) September 19, 2022
Marlborough is not only the site where Parziale won his first of three Mass Mid-Amateur titles (2015, 2016, 2021), it was also one of the two times he’s ever made an albatross. Back then he made it on the par-5, 532-yard 8th hole. His first-ever double-eagle was more than a decade prior during a casual round at Mid Pines Inn and Golf Club in North Carolina.
“I think that was the same pin today, back right,” said Parziale, who birdied the hole Monday. “That was a fun one to have a few years back.”
No matter how this week shakes out, this championship is part of an extremely busy stretch for Parziale. Following his Round of 64 appearance last week in the U.S. Mid-Amateur, Parziale is here in Marlborough. After the competition ends, he’ll head to New Jersey for the The Crump Cup, which begins Thursday at Pine Valley, rated by several publications as the best golf course in the United States.
Kyle Tibbetts calls the Mid-Amateur the “working man’s event”, but that doesn’t mean he’s not focused on going for the win. Following top-5 finishes in 2018 and 2021, Tibbetts rallied back from a 2-over thru 4 start and finished to 2-under 69, putting himself two strokes off the lead.
While many players were clubbing down off the tee, Tibbetts said more times than not he chose driver and was able to keep it in the fairway.
“I know driver isn’t the club everybody’s hitting around here, I felt pretty confident with it,” Tibbetts said. “If you can hit fairways, you’ll have a good shot to score around here.”
While standing on the 18th tee, rain started to fall, but Tibbetts found the right number and hit a 6-iron to about 3 feet dead center, which he sank to finish sub-70.
As for the key entering Round 2, “Fewer bogeys tomorrow,” he said. “I had a couple of 3-putts to get the day going and then righted the ship. So maybe I might not be as aggressive early on. We start on hole 10 tomorrow, so hopefully I can get something down there and get off and running.”
Tommy Parker, meanwhile, hadn’t had a look at Marlborough until Monday. That didn’t seem to faze the Duxbury resident, as thanks to a few notes from course notes from “some pals out here” he started the round with a birdie on the 10th and made the turn at 1-under. He then rolled in nine consecutive pars, but had to really work to get up-and-down on the final hole and stay in red figures.
“You hate to give up a shot late,” said Parker, after hitting his 160-yard approach shot short straight up the hill. “I got it a little fat, but it was a good pitch to get up-and-down.”
Not bad for your first time seeing the course. Tommy Parker talks about getting up-and-down for his 9th consecutive par to finish 1-under in the 1st round of the Mass Mid-Amateur. #MassGolf
Afternoon wave is out on the course now.
— Mass Golf (@PlayMassGolf) September 19, 2022
Parker, who made it to the quarterfinals of this year’s Mass Amateur, is seeking his best Mid-Amateur finish since placing T8 five years ago.
“It’s been kind of hot and cold since the Mass Am,” Parker said. “I played well at the qualifier for this, so it’d be nice to be exempt for some things next year and not have to go through those qualifiers, which are always tough. I’m just enjoying playing when I can.”
Sean Fitzpatrick (George Wright Golf Course) and Jesse Zorfas (Framingham Country Club) are four off the lead at even-par 71.
Marlborough Country Club’s centennial celebration has been several years in the making. According to head golf professional Greg Farland, the planning around its centennial started after the club hosted the Mass Mid-Amateur in 2015.
Earlier this summer, the club hosted a handful of past presidents and members to play in a ceremonial event where they unveiled a newly erected clock by the first tee. In addition to several banners hanging near the clubhouse celebrating its “birthday” and a new engraving on its iconic rock by hole 13, it’s clear to see that Marlborough Country Club is proud of its legacy.
“It’s a very festive mood,” Farland said Monday. “We have a lot of long-standing members, and we’re been through a lot in 100 years. Not many golf courses can say that. On our 100th year, having the Mid-Amateur here is very exciting.”
Like many New England clubs, the course was built on old farm land. The Black and White Club, a Marlborough social organization, bought the land in 1921, and since 1952, the club has been owned and controlled by its membership.
The original course was nine holes, consisting of the present-day back nine, designed by Wayne Stiles in 1921 and completed in 1922. The team of Stiles and John Van Kleek designed nearly 100 courses in 14 states along the East Coast and copied many of the design features of Donald Ross. The present-day front nine was added in 1970 and designed by Geoff Cornish, and to this day, each nine maintains its own character. The front plays much tighter over rolling terrain, while the back nine opens up a bit more.
There’s even been talk of flipping both nines, making the original nine the front again.
“Cornish did a great job with what we have on the front nine; it was a bit stuck into a little smaller piece of land,” Farland said. “I think the back nine is really special. It’s got some mounding and certain characteristics you can’t find with that typography out there.”
The club opened on a rainy day, June 3, 1922, and featured an 18-hole exhibition match between Francis Ouimet and Jesse Guilford, two Mass Golf Hall of Famers who were among the best amateur players at the time. According to newspaper clippings, Massachusetts Governor Channing H. Cox, Mayor James Michael Curley of Boston, and Mayor Edward Simoneau of Marlborough all were scheduled to attend the opening.
In the early 1980s, the club hosted the Marlboro Classic, one of the stops on the PGA Senior Tour. When Arnold Palmer won the title in 1982, it was reported that over 14,000 showed up in the final round, swelling the total gallery to over 40,000 that week. The next year, Palmer returned and almost did something he had never done before: miss a starting time. Palmer, 53, said after his round that he thought he had been scheduled to start at 1 p.m. He was fast asleep in his hotel room when tournament officials woke him at 7:45 a.m., informing him he was to start at 8:30 a.m.
“The Marlboro Classic is what put us on the map and that put us in a whole different stratosphere,” said Farland, who added that Palmer’s rocking chair awarded to his victory hasn’t turned back up four decades later.
In the meantime, Marlborough has also hosted multiple Mass Golf events and qualifiers, as well as USGA qualifying. The club hosted the Mass Mid-Amateur in 2015, won by Matt Parziale, this year’s defending champion.
The official course record is held by Scott Trethewey, previously of Pleasant Valley Country Club, who scored a 65 at the Mass Open Qualifying on May 30, 1995. He shares the club record of 65 are Ray Tanner and Ram Encarnacion.
Vana Homecoming: Frank Vana, Jr., the 10-time champion of the Mass Mid-Amateur, has been a member at Marlborough since his parents bought him a junior membership the summer before he entered the eighth grade. Now that he lives in Boxford, he plays most of his golf elsewhere, however, several Marlborough members were following him along Monday, as he’s won a dozen club championships in addition to his legendary accolades that have placed him in the Massachusetts Golf Hall of Fame. In 2015, Vana finished T2 in the Mass Mid-Amateur with scores of 74-71-74.
Past Champions: In addition to Vana and Parziale, Arthur Zelmati (2020), Colin Brennan (2017) and Brian Higgins (2008, 2009) are the past champions in the field. Zelmati and Higgins seemed poised to make the cut after shooting 72 and 73, respectively, while Brennan will have to rally after opening with a 79.
Near Ace: There were no holes-in-one to report Monday, but Arthur Zelmati came painstakingly close on the par-3 18th, as his tee shot hit the front of the green and stopped a mere foot the hole. The tap-in birdie helped him finish 1-over, good for T8 through 18-holes.
Welcome To The Mid-Am: Five golfers in the field have become newly eligible for the Mid-Amateur this year: Henry Hall (Weston Golf Club), Ryan Brown (Cape Cod National Golf), Mark Lallak (Woodland Golf Club), Jake Peer (Winchester Country Club), and Mike Boldy (Maplegate Country Club). Among the group, Hall and Brown lead the way at 3-over, with Brown making a birdie on his first hole of the day (10th).